BTA boss admits St George needs better transport links
Tourism bosses have admitted that St George needed better transport links to capitalise on the visitor trade.
Charles Jeffers II, the chief executive of the BTA, said the organisation recognised the “critical importance” of the Olde Towne to the island’s culture and tourism industry.
Mr Jeffers promised: “We will continue to use our platforms to build interest and drive visitors to the community.
“What’s more, we encourage local tourism entrepreneurs to provide unique, memorable experiences that will delight our customers and have provided funding for several St George’s based entrepreneurs, entertainment experiences and attractions over the years.”
Mr Jeffers added: “Our Experience Investment Programme provides grants and marketing support for the businesses and will be launched again this March and we encourage businesses to apply.
“Nonetheless, our support of individual tourism attractions is only one part of the puzzle and as an advocate for Bermuda’s visitors, we support the call for improved access to the town.”
Mr Jeffers, was speaking after the St George’s Stakeholder Group, set up by more than 20 businesses, said the area felt abandoned by the authorities.
The pressure group highlighted that not enough was being done to help the Olde Towne weather economic difficulties worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of the group’s priorities was a regular government ferry service to help attract visitors to the town.
The group said that Water Street had not been pedestrianised since 2019, which it said was an important part of its plan for tourism.
The group added there was a need for entertainment, more trash collection services and for action to be taken over derelict buildings.
Mr Jeffers was backed by Mark Soares, the chairman of the East End division of the Chamber of Commerce.
Mr Soares said: “We do need to encourage visitors to the town by land and sea but it has to be done in a way that is financially viable for the government.”
Mr Soares renewed calls for members of the group to join the Chamber and highlighted the benefits of membership.
He said: “The Chamber had reached out to the same group in May last year through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and we went so far as to offer a special 50 per cent discount for smaller businesses.
“We also shared with them what we believe to be the benefits of being part of the membership – we have monthly advocacy meetings with the main chamber, which gives us direct access to government, getting our voice heard. It is better to be part of a structured group.”
Mr Soares added: “We are aware that not all of the group want to be chamber members. We support all businesses in the town and we realise the challenges they are going through.”
A spokeswoman for the St George’s Stakeholder Group said that some of its members were chamber members, although most were not.
She added: “The Chamber of Commerce East End division is not a mandatory organisation.
“Requests outside that organisation, from St George’s constituents, should not be ignored or minimised because many of us have chosen not to be a part of it for various reasons.”